Authorities in western Burma’s Rakhine state have launched operations to track down illegal Rohingyas following weeks of fresh communal violence, a state government spokesman said Tuesday as an independent probe report on the clashes is delayed by another four months.
Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said the investigations beginning this week in at least two townships near the state capital of Sittwe came on the orders of President Thein Sein after clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslims Rohingyas forced thousands from their homes.
“The President … had instructions to carry out … investigations in Pha Yone Kar Kyun township where many people from Kyaukphyu, Pauktaw, and Myay Pone townships came to stay,” he said.
“We are investigating those people, whether or not they have the right to be citizens,” he told RFA’s Burmese service.
But the investigations will be launched in Pauktaw township before moving to nearby Pha Yone Kar Kyun, officials said.
A group of officials set off from the state capital Sittwe on Tuesday to start the inspections beginning with five villages in Pauktaw township, Min Nyaing said.
They will then inspect villages in Pha Yone Kar Kyun township before moving on to the Sittwe area.
“We’ll begin our work on Nov. 8 in five villages in Pa Yone Kar Kyun township. Those villages are Nghat Chaung, Sit Ke Pyin, Na Wet Chaung, Tain Ne Pyin, and Pa Yone Kar Kyun,” he said.
The investigations would be conducted by ward, village, and township level officials as well as the military, the police, immigration authorities, and Muslim community leaders, and additional personnel from the Burmese capital Naypyidaw could be called in if necessary, he said.
He said immigration authorities will handle any measures taken against those who are found to be noncitizens.
“We are working based on the 1982 citizenship laws,” he said.
The laws, which limit citizenship to those who can prove their ancestors lived in the country, bar citizenship rights to many Rohingya, who have long been regarded as outsiders and immigrants from Bangladesh.
International rights groups say the stateless Rohingya, whom the U.N. considers one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, bore the brunt of the June and recent violence.
Some 180 people have been killed and 110,000 displaced in Rakhine state since June, including 36,400 in October after a fresh round of clashes, according to official figures.
Thein Sein set up an independent commission to investigate the clashes that was expected to submit recommendations this month.
But on Monday, the commission released a statement saying its report would be postponed until March due to last month’s outbreak of violence.
The international community has urged Thein Sein’s government to do more to end the conflict in the region, warning that continued violence threatens to derail the rapid democratic changes his government has implemented since taking power from the former military junta in March last year.
On Tuesday, in a meeting with President Thein Sein on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Summit in Laos, British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged “all political parties in Burma to do what they can to end the violence and address the issue of Rohingya citizenship.”
The day before at the summit, Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said the government is working to resettle those displaced in the clashes.
"The priority of the government for the present moment is to resettle and rehabilitate those victims who are homeless," he told Agence France-Presse.
"The government is handling with great care so that this kind of violence cannot reoccur again," he added.
Reported by Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Win Naing. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.